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posted on Sunday, June 15, 2014 - 9:45am by Michael Harwood

Where Test I: Bolivia Apolo was focused on light brown sweetness and Test II: Rwanda Gitesi was a sweet-tart candy of complex fruit, Test III: Sumatra Tano Batak is many of our favorite sweet green flavors ensconced in the arms of a big, comforting body. Sumatras are known for having fuller bodies than most coffees and that holds true here. This isn't your Dad's Sumatra though (Happy Father's Day, Dad!). Instead of earthy, dirty, mellow flavors, our Tano Batak is going to give you one of the most exciting Sumatran flavor profiles you've ever had. Imagine baked caramel apple, your favorite hops, and Green Chartreuse (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartreuse_%28liqueur%29).

Test III

As this is our Rorschach Espresso Test, you'll be tasting a blend of the Sumatra Tano Batak that is one part filter profile and one part espresso profile. These two roast profiles have been aged for different amounts of time to get you the sweetest, most flavorful coffee possible. This coffee is intended for espresso extraction, so we have provided a starter recipe below. You'll notice we run more water for a longer period of time than with our Destroyer or Mass Appeal blends. This has a lot to do with the denser, brighter filter roast in the blend.

Sumatra Tano Batak Mélange
50% filter profile/50% espresso profile
Ideal Off-Roast Dates: Filter - 3 weeks off; Espresso - 1 week off
Recipe: A 1:2 to 1:2.2 weight ratio, about 2 - 2.2 fl. oz., we might call this Normale to Normale Plus
Dose: However much fits comfortably in your basket (fill it up and level it off without settling to find out), we use 20.5 grams
Beverage Weight: If a 20.5 gram dose at the 1:2 - 1:2.2 range of weight ratios, then extract 41 - 45g grams beverage weight
Extraction Time: 40 - 45 seconds total extraction time (if no soft infusion stage)
Brew Temperature: 201 F

Check it out and let us know what you taste!

posted on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 5:45pm by Michael Harwood

http://store.ceremonycoffee.com/coffees/rorschach.html

Rorschach Test II

We are thrilled by the response to the Rorschach Espresso Project thus far! Thank you to everyone who has shared this idea, given feedback, and tasted it! We take great satisfaction in seeing this idea spark curiosity in what espresso can taste like.

We hope you are having fun dialing-in and enjoying those big, sweet, exciting flavors found in Test I: Bolivia Apolo. Now hold onto your hat for Test II! Over the next two weeks, we're releasing Rwanda Gitesi as a 50% filter roast, 50% espresso roast blend, bringing together the best of both profiles. The lighter Gitesi is super sweet, juicy, and tea-like in flavor. The darker Gitesi is deeper, bittersweet, and a little spicy. Together, they are well-balanced, complex, and unbelievably delicious! Where the Bolivia Apolo shows sublime restraint, the Rwanda Gitesi brings the heat in the flavor department. We think you'll love it!

As with Test I, we are aging the roasted filter component of the blend in-house. This means that the coffee gets to you when it's ready to be extracted (about 3 weeks off-roast). This sort of aging is not the kind of thing we'd normally be into. Freshness in coffee is typically paramount. Our preferred off-roast dates are 2 days - 2 weeks off for non-espresso brewing (like pour over or press pot) and 6 days - 3 weeks off for espresso. These timelines have a lot to do with how different roast profiles age out. Darker roasts age/stale more quickly than lighter roasts (something to consider when ordering coffee), meaning that a blend of two different roast profiles may want different ages for an ideal extraction. The brewing method also plays a big role. Pressurized espresso extractions often aren't equipped to deal with fresh, gassy coffees as effectively as manual brewers are, unless they have a soft infusion stage. That said, aggressive espresso does extract flavor from older coffee more efficiently than the gentle extraction of a pour over or press pot. This connects with the reason we age the filter roast component of the blend, to allow a denser seed the time needed to degas and mature into a range of flavors that taste amazing. The less dense, espresso profile component on the other hand, only needs a week of aging before being subjected to espresso extraction. This is why you will see two roast dates on your bag of Rorschach. Both blend components are aged to their maximum deliciousness.

If you are curious about how we enjoyed Rorschach Test II: Rwanda Gitesi, check out our suggested starting point recipe below:

Rwanda Gitesi Mélange
50% filter profile/50% espresso profile
Ideal Off-Roast Dates: Filter - 3 weeks off; Espresso - 1 week off
Recipe: A 1:2.2 to 1:2.4 weight ratio, about 2.2 - 2.4 fl. oz., we might call this Normale Plus
Dose: However much fits comfortably in your basket (fill it up and level it off without settling to find out), we use 22 grams
Beverage Weight: If a 22 gram dose at the 1:2.2 - 1:2.4 range of weight ratios, then extract 48 - 53g grams beverage weight
Extraction Time: 40 - 45 seconds total extraction time (no soft infusion stage)
Brew Temperature: 201 F

Just like with Test I, you'll notice a larger shot weight/volume and a longer extraction time than we might consider normal (normal being ~2oz & 20-30sec). Of course, when we start playing with non-traditional roast profiles as espresso, "normal" ceases to be as relevant. It is exciting to think of the possibilities if we take that perspective!

Thanks again for experimenting with us. We hope (think) you'll love Rorschach Test II: Rwanda Gitesi as much as we do! Be on the look out for Test III in a couple weeks!

posted on Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 2:45pm by Michael Harwood

http://store.ceremonycoffee.com/coffees/rorschach.html

Rorschach Ink Blot Card V

What do you want to perceive when you taste espresso? "Big bodied, bittersweet, and rich" is an oft-heard refrain, but do many of us say that because those qualities are what we actually like best or are we simply conditioned by what has come before? What if I told you that espresso could be something different, even something more? There's nothing wrong with the aforementioned profile, but the current prevailing thought is that only a more developed roast is appropriate for pulling shots. With the popularity of milk-based coffee beverages, it comes as no surprise that we stick to roasts offering heavier bodies and deeper flavors. But what about those folks who don't drink milk-based coffee beverages or those who simply want a sweeter and livelier espresso? I believe it's just as important to satisfy those customers. So that raises some interesting thoughts. If we take more of an interest in our non-dairy customers and the flavor of the espresso on its own, should we roast the same for espresso extraction? Further, would we see the same sales breakdown of milk versus non-milk drinks? And importantly, would that increased focus on and sales of non-milk espresso beverages be a good thing for all parties involved?

With these questions in mind, we set about pulling shots of our filter roasts and were mostly delighted by what we found (not every coffee works). Imagine the sweetest, cleanest shot you've ever had, then crank it up. We love more developed roasts for what they offer, but you can't escape the bitter, roasty flavors they leave behind. This roast pungency hangs around in your cup (smell your used demitasse next time) and on your palate like a guest who has overstayed their welcome. In comparison, an empty demitasse from a filter profile espresso smells sweet, clean, and pleasantly aromatic. You'll find the aftertaste exhibits the same sweet, clean quality. The reason is fairly simple - high quality green coffee seeds (read: ripe harvest, meticulous sorting, very few or no defects) are packed with sucrose. The further we take our roasts, the more we convert those sweet sugars into bitter compounds. This is what makes lighter, filter roasts literally sweeter. If you like sweetness, lighter roast espressos may be for you.

Rorschach Espresso

During our espresso tests, our Bolivia Apolo stood out for its exceptional sweetness. As a pour-over, Apolo delivers a delightful profile of nougat, honey, Nutella, and pear (check it here: http://store.ceremonycoffee.com/coffees/bolivia_apolo.html). With the same filter roast profile, an espresso extraction brings out a sweet bouquet of nougat, pear, and tropical fruit. We were very excited about these flavors, but wanted to see what would happen if we mixed a bit of the filter profile with an equal part espresso profile. The results were pretty mind blowing. We got the best of both worlds - some of the body, moderate sugar browning, and flavor depth you might expect from espresso, mixed with the high sweetness, liveliness, and clarity you find with a filter profile. When we found it pairing well with milk, we knew we were onto something.

This is how our Rorschach Espresso Project came to be as a blend of Bolivia Apolo Filter & Espresso Roasts. We're excited to offer this exceptional coffee experience as a roast mélange, something you don't see everyday. A "mélange" in coffee vernacular is simply a blend of different roast levels of the same coffee. We use blending to find greater balance and complexity. In this case, we are interested in striking a balance between conventional expectations (an espresso should taste like...) and imagination (an espresso can taste like...). When blending these different profiles near 50:50, this balance is attained, making this espresso both familiar and exciting.

To read more about why we blend, here's a blog post flashback: http://goo.gl/lf7Y99

But isn't lighter roast coffee really sour as espresso? One of the main tricks to extracting pretty much any coffee of any roast level is to understand the ratio of how much coffee to how much water you should use. Upping your water dose generally equals more extraction. A good rule of thumb is that the lighter the roast, the more water you'll need to extract the right balance of flavors from the coffee. The darker the roast is, the less water you'll need. Let's put some numbers to it:

For a Dark Roast (like a French Roast) - 1:1 dose weight to beverage weight ratio, about 1 fluid ounce, called Ristretto
For a Medium Roast (like our Destroyer and Mass Appeal) - 1:2 dose weight to beverage weight ratio, about 2 fluid ounces, called Normale
For a Light Roast (like our filter roast coffees) - 1:3 dose weight to beverage weight ratio, about 3 fluid ounces, called Lungo

See our Espresso Recipes chart for more reference:
Espresso Recipes

Imagine you're dosing 20 grams into your portafilter basket. For that dark roast, you'd extract 20 grams of beverage weight, which gives us our 1:1 weight ratio. For a medium roast, it's 1:2, so that 20 gram dose should yield 40 grams of beverage weight. A light roast would need to yield 60 grams. Does this oversimplify things a bit, given variation in seed density and other factors? Absolutely, but it is useful to start with these roast-based ratios to help you get in the ballpark. For a relevant comparison, we extract Destroyer and Mass Appeal to a 1:1.8 - 1-1.65, depending on the age off-roast. This falls between Normale and Ristretto. We like to call that recipe our Golden Ratio.

The reason why we use different amounts of water for different roast levels comes down to a few factors. For one, darker roasts are more porous, due to the expansion of the seed matrix during roasting. Water has better access to the core of the grounds with a more porous coffee. Since water has better access, it takes less water to get the job done. Two, darker roasts have a low percentage of bright and sweet flavors and a high percentage of bitter flavors. Medium roasts are fairly balanced between bright, sweet, and bitter flavors. Lighter roasts have a high percentage of bright and sweet flavors and a low percentage of bitter flavors. If we go back to the aromatic semicircle on the Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel, we can see that bright flavors extract first, sweet flavors second, and bitter flavors third. If we understand the order of different compounds in extraction and we understand the flavor palette a given coffee has to offer (as dictated by terroir, process, and roast - lots of brightness? lots of bitter?) , then we can see that it is better to extract a lighter roast to higher yields and darker roasts to lower yields. This helps lighter roasts get out of the bright flavors and into the sweet. A lower yield helps darker roasts from running into bitter flavors too quickly. No matter if this all sounds confusing or like a lot of fun, we'd love to have you over for our Introduction to Espresso and Bar Flow class to work with this concept more. Sign up here: http://ceremonycoffee.com/events

SCAA Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel

Now that we have extraction covered, here's a recipe we found to work really well with our Rorschach espresso:

Bolivia Apolo Mélange
50% filter profile/50% espresso profile
Ideal Off-Roast Dates: Filter - 3 weeks off; Espresso - 1 week off
Recipe: A 1:2.2 to 1:2.4 weight ratio, about 2.2 - 2.4 fl. oz., we might call this Normale Plus
Dose: However much fits comfortably in your basket (fill it up and level it off without settling to find out), we use 21 grams
Beverage Weight: If a 21 gram dose at the 1:2.2 - 1:2.4 range of weight ratios, then extract 46 - 50g grams beverage weight
Extraction Time: 40 - 45 seconds total extraction time
Brew Temperature: 201 F

We're running this project with a brilliant coffee from Bolivia, but nothing is stopping you from throwing any of our filter profile coffees in your espresso hopper. Is that filter bag on the shelf getting old? Pop it in the espresso hopper around three weeks off roast. When you do, simply remember that you'll likely need more water than you've previously used, probably around the Lungo (1:3) ratio. Dial-in for the recipe (probably 40 - 45 second brew time), then use your grind adjustment to dial up and down in time. Higher time heads towards sharp, dry, and bitter flavors. Shorter time heads towards softer and brighter flavors. Shoot for sweetness and balance in the middle between the two poles. The most important thing to understand is that you don't need an espresso roast to brew a delicious espresso. All you need is an open mind and a receptive palate. Happy tasting!

posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 2:45pm by Caleb Podhaczky

As the plane docked at our Dulles departure gate, my mind began racing with excitement, nerves, and expectations. I clutched my ticket to Mexico as I thought through the list of tasks to accomplish while there. This was just my first trip ever to grade, select, and possibly purchase coffee. No pressure!

Chiapas Drying Patio

Thankfully, after a quick and easy trip, I arrived safely in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, located in southern Mexico. There I met a small team of roasters, green bean buyers, and the Café Imports crew (CI are one of our favorite importers). After much hand shaking, cheek kissing, and scrambling to remember names, we were all starving, and were ready to chow down. When in Mexico, do as the locals do and eat tacos! Our time getting to dinner became interesting when the taxi driver decided to take us the “scenic route”. Even with five guys crammed like clowns into a very tiny car, the driver still felt it necessary to hit 75mph down crowded streets. The nerve-wracking ride was ultimately worth it once we were eating. Tacos quickly became my favorite travel companion. Each night, we hunted down a place to consume our weight in pork, beef, tripe, and even cow face tacos. Sometimes, it felt like we had to pray that we wouldn’t have to pay for it later that night. We were told that hot sauce and tequila help ward off a sick gut, which was okay by me!

Aside from the delicious tacos and tequila, I was there for another important reason - to find some amazing coffees. So we traveled from Tuxtla to Jaltenango, Chiapas to visit a number of coffee producers. While there, we judged two competitions between these producers. Other than Cup of Excellence, these were the first twp competitions in Mexico to reward cup quality. By the time we arrived, the multitude of coffee samples for the first competition at AMSA (United Agro-Industrialists of Mexico) had been vetted. It was now up to our group to score and judge which coffees would make the top thirty. The winning farmer would not only receive a great price for their delicious crop, but also a year’s worth of technical support from AMSA and two-hundred coffee seedlings! What an incredible opportunity for these producers!

AMSA is an organization that buys green coffee still in its parchment form (known in Mexico as pergamino) from individual producers and co-ops alike, both organic and conventional. There is a pricing board at the weigh-in station for the coffees that producers bring in. Organic, conventional, and different varieties of coffee all receive a certain price. Everything is open and up-front. It was great to see that AMSA is a socially responsible company. They seem to care about the producers they work with and the people of Jaltenango. AMSA offers producers what is called SMS – sustainable management services, which provides them support. These services run the gamut from loans to helping producers in the fight against the ever-growing problem of Roya (coffee leaf rust), which is ruining crops and livelihoods. AMSA also offer technical support and advice, and even opened up their warehouse as a refuge for people affected by landslides caused by Tropical Storm Matthew in 2010.

There were some truly beautiful coffees cupped on the day of the competition. One of the standouts was a coffee produced by Juan Jose Miguel from Finca Nueva Linda. Not only was the coffee delicious, Nueva Linda is right on the edge of the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, a beautiful, immaculate, and very progressive farm and protected habitat. Juan Jose walked us through his different lots, various varietals, and how they process their coffee, all the way from pulping to fermentation to drying. Keep your eyes peeled for some exciting coffees coming from this farm.

Next was the producer competition held at the CESMACH (Campesinos Ecologicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas) dry mill. CESMACH is involved in many environmental protection and social development projects in the area around the El Triunfo Biosphere. In 2008, CESMACH and three other cooperatives used the premiums earned from selling Fair Trade coffee to buy land and build the dry mill where the competition was held. With cupping spoon, spit cup, and score sheets in hand, we cupped and discussed, then cupped and discussed some more, for almost 7 hours. Again, there were some standouts on the table. Producers from Comon Yaj Noptic took places 1st through 9th. It became obvious that these small scale farmers from this co-operative were doing something right. Ninety-three percent of the 147 members are organic certified and the remaining seven percent are in the process of becoming certified. Exciting times!

Muddy Sprouts

This action and taco-packed trip was over in the blink of an eye, but the fact that I’m back to reality (eating poor imitations of tacos) means we are that much closer to seeing some of these coffees hit our shelves for you to enjoy. I’m hopeful this trip was the start of some fruitful, lasting relationships between Ceremony Coffee Roasters and these talented, hard-working producers from Chiapas.

posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 6:15pm by Michael Harwood

New York City. Home of the Bronx Bombers, yellow taxis, and 8.337 million people. Ceremony Coffee added nine more souls to the City that Never Sleeps at this year’s Eastern Regional Coffee Fest, one of the world’s preeminent coffee and tea trade shows.

Over three non-stop days, we brewed through pounds of an exciting range of espressos and filters, microfoamed our way through gallons of milk, connected with a small village of friends new and old, competed in and won America’s Best Espresso, competed in the Latte Art Championship, showed off beautiful Synesso espresso machines and Compak espresso grinders, and ate so much amazing food that we nearly burst.

Ceremony at Coffee Fest

We warmed up each day by running Morning Coffee (an espresso and pour over bar) for the hundreds of people passing through the Coffee Fest gate at the Javits Center. Despite what you may think, it can be pretty difficult to find delicious coffee at coffee events! In light of this, folks were very excited and grateful to taste what we were serving. Some of the crowd favorites were the Ethiopia Wazzala for its lively apricot flavor and Destroyer Espresso for its sweet balance. The Rwanda Gitesi was probably the most challenging coffee we served. Seeing people’s eyes light up from having a first-time experience with such special, complex coffee is pretty amazing. I love my training and QA job, but sometimes I miss being on bar for moments like that. Having the opportunity to serve such beautiful coffees to most-appreciative and sometimes surprised guests is one of the most rewarding experiences I can imagine.

After Morning Coffee, we hustled back to our booth and got the coffee flowing there. It was a pleasure to share a workspace with my fellow Ceremony baristas, roasters, and co-workers. Their talent and knowledge is evident, but I could tell that folks were even more impressed with their commitment to being friendly, present, and polite with everyone who approached our booth (kudos to all my co-workers for running a tight, well-guided ship at Coffee Fest).

America's Best Espresso bracket

As last year’s winner, Ceremony was invited to compete in the America’s Best Espresso competition. In this event, a bracket of baristas pull shots head-to-head. In each round, two baristas must each serve three shots of espresso to a panel composed of three judges in either 7 minutes (1st round) or 10 minutes (all rounds thereafter). The judges assess both competitors’ shots, tally up their scores based on flavor complexity, mouthfeel & appeal, and aftertaste, then announce their vote. To advance, you have to earn at least two out of three votes. Our entry was an espresso roast profile of the Panama Santa Teresa Honey Geisha.

America's Best Espresso plate

To prepare, I dialed-in the Santa Teresa on the Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II on Friday morning during practice time. I then competed twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday, using the same recipe set during practice with only slight changes in extraction time. Aside from the Santa Teresa being an incredibly sweet, round, and flavorful coffee, there were a few methods I used that helped us succeed. These aren’t big secrets, so I don’t mind sharing! The first is to keep a clean machine. This seems obvious, but I noticed that the portafilters and groupheads smelled of old coffee oils before both rounds on Saturday (Sunday smelled cleaner). Doing a quick clear-water backflush, wiping out under the portafilter basket, then pulling a seasoning shot helped our coffee taste much sweeter and cleaner. The other method was to let my shots rest a minute or two before delivery. Giving the shots time to cool opened up their flavors for the judges. Beverage temperatures closer to your temperature allows the human palate to observe more flavor, but this is a double-edged sword. If your shot has dirty or defective flavors, you’d probably want to consume it while it was hot, precisely because you don’t want to taste those off-notes. I would never hold a shot back during cafe service, but in an artificial setting where flavor is being critically appraised, cooling down my shots gave me an advantage. In the end, sourcing an incredible coffee and roasting it for peak sweetness and liveliness produced an espresso that didn’t lose a single vote! We are proud to have won America’s Best Espresso and look forward to representing the East in the Nationals this October. Wish us luck! In the meantime, we encourage you to try the Panama Santa Teresa Honey Geisha SOE for yourself.

http://store.ceremonycoffee.com/coffees/santa_teresa_geisha_soe.html

If pour over or press pot is more your speed, our filter profile Geisha can't be beat either! http://store.ceremonycoffee.com/coffees/santa_teresa_geisha.html

As I was hustling back to Port Authority to catch my bus on Sunday evening, I thought about the teamwork that went into making our weekend such a success. Maybe it was the exhaustion or maybe it was just New York street grit, but for some reason, my eyes watered up a bit. I’ve thought it before, but our Coffee Fest weekend reiterated to me that I am so proud to be part of this team.

Midtown NYC

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